Here’s How Every State In America Ranks On Free Speech For Students

Rob Shimshock | Education Reporter

A nonprofit recently released a ranking on how states across the county stack up in regards to their laws protecting free speech and free association on campus.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group that advocates and litigates on issues pertaining to religious freedom, free speech, and family values, published a graph depicting First Amendment protections for students from state to state.

ADF ranked states by their enactment of laws prohibiting specific “speech zones” in which free speech can occur, laws prohibiting speech codes, and laws protecting freedom of association. Kentucky is the only state that enacted laws protecting students’ speech in all three categories.

(Photo Credit: Alliance Defending Freedom)

(Photo Credit: Alliance Defending Freedom)

Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouori, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina have all enacted laws prohibiting so-called “speech zones,” which restrict when and where students can exercise free speech.

Idaho, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina have passed laws protecting students’ freedom of association with regard to the governance of their campus organizations and selection of speakers and leaders.

Only Kentucky has enacted a law specifically prohibiting universities to adopt speech codes.

The ADF has litigated on behalf of students affected by speech codes on campus in several high-profile instances. The organization filed a lawsuit in May against Kellogg Community College after the school arrested two students for handing out pocket-sized Constitutions. (RELATED: Community College Sued After Arresting Students For Distributing Constitutions)

“Despite the 1st Amendment’s protections, universities aren’t getting the message,” said Casey Mattox, ADF’s senior counsel, to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We’ve sued a dozen different schools in the last year alone.”

“They know there’s very little risk to them; they can continue to rely on taxpayers to foot the bill.”

Mattox remarked that free speech on campus should be a “very bipartisan issue,” stating that the issue did not concern exclusively liberal or exclusively conservative speech, but involved “protecting student speech period.” He also lauded current state legislation to protect students’ free speech rights.

“They actually require the schools to literally change their policies to comply [with the 1st Amendment],” said the senior counsel.

Mattox noted that he was optimistic about the future, saying that while solutions to censorship are up for debate, “everyone agrees there’s a 1st Amendment problem.”

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